Major League Baseball has agreed to change the intentional walk rule, according to a report from ESPN’s Howard Bryant. Pitchers will no longer be required to actually throw four balls in favor of a signal from the dugout denoting an automatic base on balls.
Will have to wait to see what that signal actually is, but I vote for this one:
The move is part of MLB’s push to speed up the pace of play. And, really, it’s fine. But it won’t save much time at all. There are dozens of other more dramatic changes that could be explored that would have a greater impact. There were only 932 intentional walks in the 2016 season.
A purist could point to the dramatic free passes gone wrong, like Miguel Cabrera swatting a game-winning single against Baltimore in 2006, as an evidence the physical act of throwing four pitches is crucial to the game.
But those would be the exception, not the rule. Ninety-nine and change percent of intentional walks end without incident. The practice is a bit antiquated and, as much as I’d like to conjure up outrage, it seems kind of hollow.
RIP Traditional Intentional Walk. Thanks for the sporadic memories.